This past Sunday, the venerable New York Times issued a special section on upcoming movie releases for the critical summer season. Before laying out what we have to look forward to, the first page featured a series of "Memos to Hollywood" from critics A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis.
I thought Mr. Scott in particular offered up some important, though hardly new, suggestions for the industry:
1) Allow people to see movies how, when and where they want to;
2) Fix our nitwitted, confusing ratings system;
3) Give some edgy young filmmakers the chance to enliven the embarrassingly stale phenomenon known as film comedy;
4) Political correctness is the enemy of art and entertainment- take a stand; aim for some controversy in your films, get people talking;
5) Scorsese and Spielberg- think small again (fat chance); and finally,
6) A depressingly apt and descriptive listing of all the tired formulas still being flogged to the public, accompanied by a heartfelt plea to do something different and better.
Ms. Darghis, working as she does for one of the top surviving newspapers in the land, inspired me less than her colleague. Maybe she is meant to speak for the youth, but the youth I meet are brighter than this.
For example, she saluted Pixar for making a film with a female protagonist (something on everyone's mind), decried the portrayal of effeminate gays (does Sean Penn count?), and asked for more movies with Rachel McAdams and James Franco (I like Franco, but I'm seeing plenty of him. Does he need a job?).
Most annoyingly, she contradicted A.O Scott's first well-made point about the public's desire to consume film how, when and where they choose by taking the urban public to task for not supporting foreign and independent films at their neighborhood arts-house! After all, "DVDs and downloads pale next to the big-screen experience", and companies like New Yorker films are going out of business!
This is our fault, Manohla? Hollywood's marketing might, which marginalizes the awareness and distribution of these smaller films, is not the primary culprit? And sorry to break it to you, but more and more people watch a good portion of their movies at home, and very happily too, for reasons of price and convenience.
Later I had to wonder if the ensuing irony was evident to anyone at the Times. Moving on from this lead article, I quickly discovered that the rest of the section was dominated by plugs and ads for just the kinds of movies these critics are asking Hollywood to stop making.
Among the cinematic treats in store for us this summer:
The much anticipated re-make of "The Taking Of Pelham One, Two, Three" for those who found the original classic had too many words and not enough bullets;
A drama (yes, drama- and about terminal illness) misleadingly titled "Funny People" starring Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen, logical perhaps in that their latest comedies stopped being funny;
A new variation on the plodding "Da Vinci Code" called "Angels and Demons", with Tom Hanks still sporting that silly haircut (only Hollywood so blatantly aims to capitalize on failure);
The inevitable sequels... for "Harry Potter" (he must have chest hair by now), "Ice Age", and the eternally witty, effervescent "Night At The Museum";
For those already nostalgic for "Beverly Hills Chihuahua", the high-minded Jerry Bruckheimer brings us a movie called "G Force" starring-you guessed it- a guinea pig;
Not to mention a new (airbrushed) Sandra Bullock romantic comedy called "The Proposal", starring a much younger man with nice hair named Ryan Reynolds.
Of course, it won't be all bad; it never is. To be fair, there are always a few surprise gems buried amidst the muck. Personally, I will be curious to see whether:
The classically beautiful (but never effeminate) Johnny Depp can bring off his portrayal of tough, macho gangster John Dillinger in "Public Enemies";
Quentin Tarantino can pull himself out of his recent spate of creative self-indulgence with "Inglorious Bastards", starring Brad Pitt;
Meryl Streep's rendition of Julia Child in "Julie and Julia" approaches my own legendary impersonation- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BFGC8l1gA0.
Till these breathless moments arrive, Ms. Darghis, I will stay blissfully at home, watching the Criterion release of "The Friends Of Eddie Coyle" on DVD. Who knows? I may even program my very own Bob Mitchum Film Festival.
Follow John Farr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BMBFarr